Kazakhstan – Religious Persecution Continues Unrelentlessly

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Kazakhstan, one of the former Soviet colonies in Central Asia, and a reputable oil power, is trying to convince the world it is a civilised nation. Yet, religious persecution cotinues and even intensifies there, for decades, as proven by this recent article published by Forum 18.

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KAZAKHSTAN: Criminal conviction, large “moral damages” – and new criminal case?

By Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

Retired Presbyterian Pastor Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev was this afternoon (17 February) given a four-year suspended prison term in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana. He was convicted of harming the health of a church member, even though that church member has repeatedly insisted to state authorities that her health was not harmed. He also has to pay his alleged “victim” large “moral damages” of 2 Million Tenge (about 65,800 Norwegian Kroner, 7,900 Euros or 10,800 US Dollars). “In my experience as a lawyer, this is one of the strangest cases I have seen in terms of legality”, Pastor Kashkumbayev’s lawyer Nurlan Beysekeyev told Forum 18 News Service after the verdict was handed down orally. “It was not just strange, but from the standpoint of the law, all types of violations occurred, when the case was opened, when it was being investigated and during the trial.” Kashkumbayev will appeal against the verdict. Other violations of freedom of religion or belief continue, including ongoing raids on meetings for worship without state permission.

Retired Presbyterian Pastor Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev was this afternoon (17 February) handed a four-year suspended prison term in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana. He was convicted under Criminal Code Article 103 (“Intentional inflicting of serious harm to health”) of harming the health of a church member, even though that church member has insisted to state authorities, Forum 18 News Service and others that her health was not harmed. He also has to pay his alleged “victim” large “moral damages” of 2 Million Tenge (about 65,800 Norwegian Kroner, 7,900 Euros or 10,800 US Dollars).

Lyazzat Almenova, the only person whose heath the state claims was harmed told Forum 18 in July 2013 that Kashkumbayev is “totally innocent and has not harmed my health at all” (see F18News 26 July 2013 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1860). She had earlier written to Astana Prosecutor’s Office to say she is psychiatrically healthy, that a 2012 assessment of her was conducted illegally, and calling for the case to be abandoned (see F18News 12 June 2013 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1846).

Prosecutors for reasons they did not explain dropped four other criminal charges levied during the two year investigation. Forum 18 notes that on one of the charges a new criminal case could be launched. The state Agency of Religious Affairs (ARA) has also stated that Grace Presbyterian Church’s legal status may be under threat (see below).

The retired Pastor’s Grace Presbyterian Church has long been a target of state hostility. For example, after an October 2012 police raid on the Church, detained church members noted that police questioning displayed a curious lack of interest in the alleged harm they were supposedly investigating (see F18News 19 October 2012 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1756).

The 67-year-old retired Pastor Kashkumbayev was freed in the court room after exactly nine months’ imprisonment, but will live under at present unclear restrictions. He will challenge the conviction.

“One of the strangest cases I have seen in terms of legality”

“In my experience as a lawyer, this is one of the strangest cases I have seen in terms of legality,” Pastor Kashkumbayev’s lawyer Nurlan Beysekeyev told Forum 18 after the verdict was handed down orally. “It was not just strange, but from the standpoint of the law, all types of violations occurred, when the case was opened, when it was being investigated and during the trial.”

Read HERE the rest of this article.

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